Sunday, April 08, 2018

I GRU again today...

You don't expect to hear The Arrogant Worms in a church. But Grand River Unitarian is not your typical church. (We got two versus of this, with updates: "we don't have Bob Dole" became "we don't have Donald Trump"--and somebody in the choir held up a portrait of...Doug Ford. Cue rueful laughter.)

It's still too 'churchy' for Eva, and I get her perspective. There are hymns (this one is sung each week); an offertory;  and an order of service that includes several weekly rituals. I, personally, welcome these rituals. They give me a sense of familiarity. But I understand her perspective. Even devoid of a God, it is unmistakably...a church.

So I go alone. And wish I could share my joys here.

Today's homily was about the final stages of the Reverend Jessica Purple Rodela's journey to become a Canadian citizen. She had suffered all manner of delays and bureaucratic screwups, and so her description of the ceremony was quite poignant. There was one final oh-so-Canadian moment: due to a clerical error, the dates on all the fifty certificates of citizenship were off by a year.  They hurriedly reprinted them, and handed them out in a most un-ceremonial way, but accompanied by a most Canadian of benedictions: "Sorry".

It gives you pause, or at least it gives me pause. I'm Canadian by birth; my mom had Scots-Irish in her blood, but it was a trickle, and we're not sure about my dad's heritage. The point is, I never claimed Canadianness, it simply fell upon me. Those who do come here, and even more so, those who actively seek to become Canadian citizens--they do so for deeply personal reasons and it's a decision one does not make lightly.

The word citizen is old, old, old. It ultimately derives from Latin civitas, "city", but you'd recognize the word all the way up through  Old French (the sixth century) to the  Anglo-Norman French that was the working language of England after 1066. If you check a dictionary today, you'll find citizen has two primary definitions: "a legally recognized subject or national of a state . or commonwealth, either native or naturalized"...and "an inhabitant of a particular town or city". This I find illuminating: it speaks to the idea that even something so large as a country, even a country as vast as Canada, is still a community. And that word itself, community? Breaks down to "com-", (together, in association with) + "unity", "the state of being united or joined as a whole".

Together, joined as a whole.

To what purpose?

We all have not just rights, but responsibilities as citizens. New citizens are explicitly told these; the rest of us learned them in civics (if that even was a thing when you were in school).  They are:

  • to respect the rights and freedoms of others;
  • to obey Canada's laws;
  • to participate in the democratic process;
  • to respect Canada's two official languages and its multicultural heritage
How many of us "born-heres" can truthfully say we take those responsibilities seriously?

Rev. Jess made repeated allusions to the similarities she found between the citizenship obligations and UU principles, especially the fifth:

The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

I wrote about this seven years ago, and it's just one proof among many that I've found a spiritual home. Other churches I have experienced pretend to be democratic but really aren't, and damned few of them echo my own politics as expressly as this one does. What are my politics? A Facebook meme covers half of it: I'm basically against anything that kills people or harms the planet we live on. The other half is much harder to articulate, and has to do with love. I believe in love as a force. Properly wielded, it can move mountains. The hymn we sang today has as its first chorus:

And we believe in life, and in the strength of love; 
and we have found a need to be together. 
We have our hearts to give, we have our thoughts to receive; 
and we believe that sharing is an answer.

(That's the second time I've sang that one--the first time was my very first exposure to this congregation. Yes, I immediately recognized the song.)

Rev. Jess is an inspiration. She is a mirror image of a much grander vision of who I am myself: a reformed introvert who makes anyone feel at home in any space. If she's nervous in crowds like I am, she hides it utterly.

Canada is a better country with her as part of it.


Mandrew said...

Thanks for the write-up on today's service! I'm sorry that I missed it!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the write-up, and so glad you've found a place that fits your needs. It is a special place for me too.